"Along the way, we understand that individually we may say or do things that are not universally accepted," but the team will "strive to be a force for unity in our efforts to support a more just society," he said.

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II says the organization respects players’ decisions over social justice issues as the controversy continues over Alejandro Villanueva replacing Antwon Rose II’s name on the back of his helmet.

“As an organization, we respect the decision of each player, coach and staff member relating to how to express themselves on social justice topics. We will continue to support our social initiatives to fight against social injustice and systemic racism not only in our area, but around the country,” Rooney’s statement, released Thursday, reads.

“Along the way, we understand that individually we may say or do things that are not universally accepted. There will be uncomfortable conversations. But we will strive to be a force for unity in our efforts to support a more just society.”

He goes on to say players “have done an amazing job” in helping to create social justice platforms, “but we know there is still work to be done.”

Rooney says voter registration and awareness, community and police forums and education and community investment will be the primary focuses when it comes to social justice funds and activities this year.

At the start of this week, the Steelers announced their decision to wear Antwon Rose Jr.’s name on the back of their helmets. Rose was 17 when he was shot and killed by a police officer in 2018.

(Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Steelers)

The Steelers said the NFL is allowing players to wear helmet decals honoring victims of systemic racism this year, so they chose Rose.

“We don’t want him to be forgotten,” the Steelers tweeted. “For the 2020 season, we unite as one and will wear a single name on the back of our helmets – Antwon Rose Jr.”

However, during Monday night’s game against the Giants, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva chose to cover up Rose’s name, displaying the name of a military veteran instead.

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Villanueva’s choice received support from Mike Coach Tomlin, who said the two of them discussed the decision, while others like Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Heyward said they didn’t know about it.

(Photo Credit: Chris Mack/Twitter)

“That’s his choice and that’s the amazing thing about the country we live in. It is what it is,” said Roethlisberger.

Meanwhile, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey posted on Instagram this morning saying he was “given limited information” about the “situation regarding Antwon” and he’ll make his own decision about whose name he wears going forward.

Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, criticized Villanueva in a since-deleted Facebook post.